Terrafame's environmental impact assessment programmme published 22.11.2016 15:31

  • Opinions on the environmental impact assessment programme concerning Terrafame’s continued mining operations and their development or the mine’s shutdown (the so-called production EIA) may be submitted to the Kainuu Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (Kainuu ELY Centre) until 23 January 2017
  • As part of the hearing phase, an open meeting will be held at Sotkamo’s old dairy building (Salmelantie 6) on Thursday, 24 November at 18:00 o’clock (coffee served at 17:30)

The Kainuu ELY Centre, the coordinating authority for Terrafame’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) procedure, has published the environmental impact assessment programme on continuing and developing Terrafame’s operations or the mine’s alternative shutdown (the so-called production EIA). After the publication, the production EIA programme is available on the websites of the environmental administration and Terrafame Ltd. Opinions regarding the programme can be submitted to the Kainuu ELY Centre until 23 January 2017.

The EIA programme is a plan defining the impacts to be assessed during the EIA procedure and the methods of the assessment. For instance, the programme includes basic information on Terrafame’s mining operations and the options under assessment, a plan of communications during the EIA procedure as well as an assessment on the schedule of the project and the EIA procedure.

According to the Act on Environmental Impact Assessment, the production EIA procedure will examine the environmental effects resulting from Terrafame’s continued mining operations and their development or the alterative shutdown of the mine. These effects concern:

people’s health, living conditions and well-being in the area
surface and ground waters, soil, air, climate, vegetation, organisms and diversity of nature
community structure, buildings, landscape and cultural heritage as well as
the relationships between these factors.

The effects of discharge routes on watercourses will not be evaluated in the production EIA procedure. They are covered in connection with the EIA procedure concerning Terrafame’s water management, which started in August 2016. You can read more about Terrafame’s publication of the EIA programme for water management at:


In the production EIA procedure, the mining operations’ load on watercourses will be examined only from the point of view of the growth of production volumes and changes resulting from new processes. Watercourse effects will be examined only from the point of view of small, nearby watercourses regarding building new areas and dust effects.

Four options under evaluation

Four options for Terrafame’s operations will be evaluated in the production EIA:


Option Description

Operations according to the mine’s current permit

  • Mining operations will resume in their current form
  • Ore mining 15 million tonnes per year which will gradually be increased to 1.5 million tonnes per month (18 million tonnes per year), which requires the environmental permit to be updated.
  • Nickel production 30,000 tonnes per year. Nickel product will be sold as the current nickel sulphide product.
  • Separate surrounding rock waste areas KL1 and KL2 and secondary sections 5 and 6 will be built, as per the production plan.
  • Uranium recovery will start in 2019 as permitted previously.

Developing the mine’s operations, option 1a

  • The mining operations continue so that the operations will be developed according to Terrafame’s plans.
  • Separate surrounding rock waste areas, a secondary leaching area 2 and gypsum pond sections 7–8 will be built according to VE0.
  • The uranium recovery plant will be put into operation in 2019 according to VE0.
  • The yearly ore mining amount will be increased by 2018 to 18 million tonnes while the amount of surrounding waste rock is at 18–45 million tonnes, depending on the ore mining situation.
  • New leaching sections 5 and 6 will be built in the primary leaching area.
  • Due to the increase of ore production and expansion of the primary leaching area, the yearly production of nickel is 36,000–37,000 tonnes from 2019 onwards in this option.

Developing the mine’s operations, option 1b

  • In addition to the production increase detailed in option VE1a, a roasting facility will be added to the production process of the metals recovery plant at the end of 2018, after which 50–100% of the nickel product will be sold as nickel oxide. In the roasting process, the nickel sulphide will be turned into nickel oxide in hot temperature.  
  • A sulphuric acid plant will be constructed at the same time as the roasting facility. The sulphuric acid plant will enable partial self-sufficiency concerning sulphuric acid which is used in the bioleaching process. The roasting facility enables burning air emissions containing hydrogen sulphide, after which the use of lye decreases, which has positive effects on water emissions as well.

Shutdown of the mine

  • The decision is made to stop the mining operations and the mine will be shut down gradually in a controlled way.
  • In the first phase, the ore mining will be stopped. Bioleaching and metals recovery will stop gradually during a period lasting about four years.
  • It is estimated that the last sections of the secondary leaching area and the last areas of the gypsum ponds will be covered in about 5–10 years after the shutdown decision.
  • After the shutdown decision, the nickel production will remain at a significant level approximately 18 months due to the retroactive nature of the bioleaching method. For instance, if the decision to shut down the mine was made at the end of 2016, the nickel production of 2017 would probably be more than 20,000 tonnes.


“The production EIA procedure, which has now begun, is an important step towards sustainable and economically profitable operations where our goal has always been to ensure environmental safety. With the EIA procedure, the effects of the solutions concerning Terrafame’s future operations will be carefully evaluated in collaboration with different public authorities and stakeholder groups. This provides a solid foundation for our future environmental permit applications,” says Terrafame Ltd.’s CEO Joni Lukkaroinen.

“Three of the options are based on Terrafame’s long-term business plan and the possibilities to expand our operations. The roasting facility would increase the processing degree of our nickel product. The recovery of uranium is also included in the EIA procedure, however, it could at the earliest be a current matter after some years. The fourth option assesses the mine’s shutdown in line with the state owner’s decision,” concludes Lukkaroinen.

The EIA procedure advances from the programme to a report

The environmental impacts caused by continuing and developing Terrafame’s mining operations or, alternatively, the effects of shutting down the mine will be evaluated as part of the procedure according to the Act on Environmental Impact Assessment.

After the programme phase, an EIA report on the assessed environmental effects will be drafted based on the EIA programme as well as opinions and statements presented on the programme. The EIA report will present, for instance, the current state of the environment, the environmental effects of the assessed options and their significance as well as a comparison of the assessed options. In addition, the report will detail methods to prevent and mitigate harmful effects, for instance.

Terrafame’s production EIA report is estimated to become available in May 2017. The EIA procedure is concluded when the coordinating authority provides its statement on the evaluation report to Terrafame in, approximately, August 2017.

Background on Terrafame’s production EIA procedure

In April 2014, the Regional State Administrative Agency of Northern Finland issued a decision on changing the environmental and water management permit granted to Talvivaara’s mine in March 2007. In its decision, the Regional State Administrative Agency combined the application concerning the environmental permit of the uranium recovery plant with the applications concerning the review of the mine’s permit regulations.

In April 2016, the Vaasa Administrative Court issued its decision on the appeals concerning the review of the permit regulations of the mine’s environmental and water management permit as well as on the appeals concerning the environmental permit of the uranium recovery facility. According to the Agency’s decision, the permit decision of 2014 is temporary and Terrafame must apply for a new permit by the end of August 2017.

To apply for a new environmental permit, Terrafame Ltd. has started two EIA procedures in autumn 2016. The other procedure concerns continuing and developing Terrafame’s operations or, alternatively, shutting down the mine. The other procedure concerns Terrafame’s water management.

Terrafame has appealed the Agency’s decision to the Supreme Administrative Court. All the mine’s operations, excluding water emissions, are thus regulated by the original environmental and water management permit from 2007.

With regards to water management, several decisions issued by the Regional State Administrative Agency and the Vaasa Administrative Court are currently valid. These decisions are examined in the ongoing, separate EIA procedure for water management.

Open meeting in Sotkamo on Thursday, 24 November at 18:00 o’clock

The EIA procedure is an open process, and citizens and other stakeholders have the opportunity to take part in it. Citizens and other interested parties may participate in the process by expressing their views to the Kainuu ELY Centre, which acts as the coordinating authority.

An open meeting on the EIA programme will be held at Sotkamo’s old dairy building (operating today as a movie theatre) at Salmelantie 6. The event will begin with coffee at 17:30, after which the public will have the opportunity to express their views on the environmental impact assessment. Another meeting will be held approximately in May 2017, after the EIA report for water management has been completed.

The production EIA programme is available from 22 November 2016 until 22 January 2017 for comments and statements in the following places:

Kainuu ELY Centre, Kalliokatu 4

Kajaani town hall, Pohjolankatu 13

Sotkamo municipal government office, Markkinatie 1

Paltamo municipality, Vaarankyläntie 7

Sonkajärvi municipality, Rutakontie 28

and online at www.ymparisto.fi/terrafamevesienhallintaYVA

Written opinions regarding the EIA programme may be submitted to the Kainuu ELY Centre by 23 January 2017 by email: kirjaamo.kainuu@ely-keskus.fi or by mail: Kainuu ELY Centre, PL 115, 87101 Kajaani, Finland, visiting address Kalliokatu 4. An opinion form, to be filled in and sent to the Kainuu ELY Centre, can be found at www.ymparisto.fi/terrafamevesienhallintaYVA.

Additional information and interview requests by email:

Terrafame Ltd., CEO Joni Lukkaroinen, joni.lukkaroinen@terrafame.fi

Terrafame Ltd. is a Finnish multi-metal company producing primarily nickel and zinc by bioheapleaching at its mine located in Sotkamo. The aim is environmentally sustainable, safe and economically viable mining operations. Terrafame is owned by Terrafame Group Ltd., which is wholly owned by the State of Finland.

Article subjects: EnvironmentTerrafame